Marketers know how important Instagram is. The platform has a billion active monthly users and the top 50 brands on Instagram now have a larger audience size and nearly 19x more engagement than on Facebook.
But to take full advantage of everything the platform has to offer, it’s important to stay on top of the latest developments. Luckily, we’ve done that for you, with this updated list of the most important updates and changes that marketers need to know:
By increasing the integration of shopping within the platform, Instagram Shopping is taking the ecommerce experience to a new level.
The feature, which first debuted in a limited release in May and has been slowly rolling out in waves, allows business accounts to create a more robust shopping experience that’s also more user-friendly. The new shops tab will replace the activity tab at the bottom of the screen, and users can get into the shop through regular feed posts, carousels, stories, or the discover page.
The ability to look at a post that has a featured product, click for more information (which may include multiple views, color options, and prices), and then complete the purchase all within the app is expected to make a huge impact in the ecommerce industry, which has already seen robust sales due in part to the global pandemic keeping people at home.
Instagram’s rival to TikTok, Instagram Reels, is expanding at an opportune time.
The short-form video feature, which launched in Brazil in late 2019, had recently begun operating in India shortly after the country banned TikTok and other apps over privacy concerns. Not too long after that, Instagram announced that Reels would rollout to 50 more countries, including the US, which is considering its own ban on TikTok.
Whatever happens to TikTok, Instagram Reels will need to survive on its own merits. The feature, which is available within the Instagram app, allows users to create 15-second video clips set to music or audio from other Reels videos.
Users can share Reels in Stories, through direct messages, or by sharing them to the discover page, where they could go viral. Users can also keep a collection of Reels at the top of their profile, similar to how Stories can be kept in collections that don’t expire after 24 hours.
The coronavirus pandemic created a lot of new user habits and needs, and in response Instagram unveiled several new features.
Instagram Live usage increased during the pandemic, and since many of the streams were meant to help raise awareness or funds for certain causes, it made sense to have the ability to donate right while watching the video.
Instagram added the live donations option in April, which gave accounts the ability to designate programs that they wanted to fundraise for. Users could click then click to view the nonprofit organization and donate, and Instagram also added an I Donated sticker to post in Stories.
Speaking of stickers, many people wanted to support local small businesses during lockdown, and the Share Professional or Support Small Business sticker became an easy way to do that. The sticker prompts users to type the Instagram account name of a business, and then it automatically fills in the account’s last three feed posts, offering a quick and enticing way to send viewers straight to the business’ account.
Wondering which accounts to cull from your feed? Instagram unveiled some easy-to-view insights, which could be bad news for brands.
By going to your profile and clicking following, a categories feature at the top shows the 50 accounts that you interact with the least and the 50 that are shown the most in your feed.
The accounts that you interact with least are basically a recommendation of accounts that you could unfollow – which could be annoying for marketers as it’s an easy way for users to see which accounts they could drop. And the other category also lets users decide if they want to make any changes to the 50 accounts that they see the most based on the algorithm.
Overall, this is a positive control feature for users that could have some downsides for the marketers trying to reach them.
Influencers and creators on Instagram now have another way to make money through the platform: IGTV ads.
After initially testing the idea in February, Instagram expanded the feature in May and will continue testing throughout the year. The revenue sharing – 55% for creators – is currently available just for individual video creators, not large media companies.
Larger companies will eventually also get revenue sharing, but that’s not expected to be implemented until 2021.
Instagram has tested several different versions of the ads – skippable, different lengths, etc. – but the primary version is that a 15-second ad pulls up when a user clicks Watch IGTV video from the main feed post.
In addition to the ads, Instagram also made it possible to share Instagram Live broadcasts to IGTV, so that they can be found there instead of disappearing after 24 hours.
The comments section under a feed post isn’t always a positive place, but users can help steer the sentiment in the direction they want with pinned comments.
Users can pin up to three comments at the top of their feed, so that they can choose the first comments that are visible to others when they see the post. Instagram started testing the feature in May and rolled it out to all users in July.
In a shift that was likely related directly to a Facebook ad boycott, in June Instagram announced that new advertisers didn’t need to link to a Facebook ad account or Facebook page as was previously required.
The feature, which is available only to new advertisers in the US and Turkey, was likely related to the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which called on brands to stop advertising on Facebook for the month of July. By not requiring that ads on both platforms be linked and managed through a centralized platform, it’s possible some brands would move forward with advertising just on Instagram while not doing so on Facebook, at least for a while.
However, the full effects of the ad boycott remain to be seen, as some brands, like Unilever, pledged to pause advertising in the US on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter through 2020.
The US debut of Instagram Reels could be the start of some major changes in user habits as the platform tries to compete with TikTok. Similarly, the updated Instagram Shopping experience could portend a boost in sales for brands that can take advantage of the improved user experience.
These updates and more are changing the way that marketers can succeed on Instagram, so make sure to stay up to date and take advantage of future improvements.
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